« VorigeDoorgaan »
have suffered by one extreme, we go to the other. As religion has been trammeled by organization, we declare for individualism, not individuality,– people who have individuality never have to declare for personal rights. God did that when he made them; but we declare for individualism, which is only another “ism” added to the “confusion of
We say we have had enough of metaphysics, so we rave against all philosophy, forgetting that we cannot do a simple problem in mathematics without the aid of the idealizing faculty, which has been at the root of all the mental sciences. We see how morality has been divorced from religion, so we proclaim a universal divorce; and the records of human history, so far as we are concerned, may contain only a register of deaths. There can be no births until religion and morality learn that “what God hath joined together no man may put asunder.”
Again, we say the history of doctrines is a record of mythologic fancies and misshapen half-truths: we will believe only what we can prove; and that is little enough, if we confine proof to the senses. So that, in our revolt from the past, we are likely to breed a famine for the whole higher nature of man. In our determination to put an end to fancy, we are likely to destroy imagination also. In our fear of believing something which shall cast a reflection upon our advanced thought, we are likely to ignore all those records of the past by which, for the most part, the material for advanced thought is furnished. In our revulsion from the extravagances of worship, we reduce ourselves to a state of mind without fervor, and take refuge in the statement that science must triumph, no matter what becomes of religion, forgetting that the religious temper is necessary to the advance of science, and that he can make no discoveries in the natural world, who dismisses the imagination from his methods. Neptune rolled in space through countless ages; but it was not known until Prof. Adams, starting from the fluctuations in Uranus, traced imaginary lines upon the blue vault overhead by mathematical calculations, using that science which, though the most exact, is also the most de
pendent upon the power of abstraction and idealization. Drawing thus his lines mathematically, he saw in imagination where they would cross, and, sending to the Royal Observatory his calculations, bade them direct the telescope to that point, and there behold the planet they sought. This is a fit illustration of how certainly even science depends upon a power which traverses a world the senses cannot touch until imagination leads the way. When science becomes unimaginative, it will be unable to generalize a single law from all its array of fragmentary facts; and, when religion adopts this unideal science as its ideal, it will, for very shame at its own nakedness, clothe itself again in the superstitions which it despised. When it has ceased to say, “ Contemplate the eternal necessity, O my synthesis of organs!" it will find it extremely difficult to return to the grand old jubilate, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name!”
Prof. Huxley never said a truer word than when he declared that "history warns us that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand," he says, “it is hardly rash to anticipate that in another twenty years the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in danger of accepting the main doctrines of origin of species' with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries twenty years ago rejected them.”
Let us take warning by such words as these, and guard against the same danger in religious truth. If you ask how we are to guard against this danger, I know of no way but to join those constructing forces of the Spirit which turn the restraint of the law into aspiration, and vitalize worship and doctrine, which without vitality will rob us of our vitality also, by their lifeless contact.
Let us call religious imagination to our aid. Let us read a new meaning into the old phraseology. So much of it as clothed the thought of spiritual life and was the product of the genius of religion will disclose the fact that our new meaning was already written between the lines. And, as in
old manuscripts it often is discovered that a recent work has been written upon a manuscript older and more valuable, so, in this effort to read a new meaning into barren worship and doctrines we have outgrown, we shall discover beneath these the truth, we seek to write, already there, and thus illustrate again the familiar fact that the newest is the oldest also, and the most vital shares a vitality of a by-gone age. As youth rejoices in its boasted possession of strength, and yet must not forget that behind the decrepitude of its older generations stretches a strength of early manhood on which the present generation draws for its supply, so, recovering the imperishable and pristine truths from all the débris piled upon them by custom, by false science, whether of the natural or the supernatural, let us illumine them afresh by a vital experience of our own. I quote once more from Martineau in that latest utterance to his colleagues and former students of Manchester New College: “ Religion is reproached with not being progressive: it makes amends by being imperishable. The enduring element in our humanity is not in the doctrines which we consciously elaborate, but in the faiths which unconsciously dispose of us, and never slumber but to wake again. What treatise on sin, what philosophy of retribution, is as fresh as the fifty-first Psalm? What scientific theory has lasted like the Lord's Prayer ? If it is an evidence of movement that in a library no books become sooner obsolete than books of science, it is no less a mark of stability that poetry and religious literature survive, and even ultimate philosophies seldom die but to rise again. These, and with them the kindred services of devotion, are the expression of aspirations and faiths which forever cry out for interpreters and guides."
We have stood outside the walls of some cathedral and saw its windows of stained glass mere dark blotches upon its beauty, marring the “poem in stone”; the figured saints were mere outlines, indistinct; the hovering forms, whether angel or demons, who could tell? And, as we turn away, we seem to hear a voice saying, “Come within.” We cross the threshold, and, lo! all is changed. The windows blaze
titions rash to ration
be in Decies
with light, the solid stone-work is only a framing for the glorious vision. The sun pours through the many-colored glass, and the figures of beauty stand out like living forms. We hear the choir of voices about the altar, and seem to see the hovering angels join the song. The words of prayer seem to rise from the parted lips of saints; and all this transformation marks the difference between the simple words “ without” and “ within." We looked from the outer world, seeking to penetrate the beauty of the work of man, and saw nothing well. We entered within the structure that man raised and looked outward upon an illumined world, and, behold! this wondrous change. It may be that all we need to give grace and beauty to many another great truth or experience at which we gaze from without is to hear and obey a voice which says, “ Come within.”
The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, whereby we draw nigh to God. " The law, having a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things, can never make the comers thereunto perfect.” For “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
THOMAS R. SLICER.
ECHOES OF THE LUTHER CELEBRATION.
For two or three months, the chief event in the theological world has been the celebration of Luther's birth, and all periodicals are still full of it. Such wide-spread and unqualified tributes to the work and words of one man, after the lapse of four centuries, are exceptional in history; and, without taking anything from the praise which fairly belongs to this great character and leader in religious movements, we have wondered if some force were not given to this demonstration, so universal throughout Christendom, by a deep impression that, while great transitional periods have their peculiar characteristics, there is still some analogy between the conditions of our own age and those which existed in the days that were preparing the Reformation, - conditions which prophesy social and religious issues of hardly less moment than those which made the sixteenth century so marked. For that event was not by any means theological only. It included social, political, and educational, as well as religious questions; and Luther had those rare gifts which enabled him to give a higher direction and a certain unity to them all. That wonderful power for work; that ceaseless industry; that physical courage which always calls for the world's admiration; that readiness of utterance, either in the discussion of the profoundest subjects with the philosophers or appealing to humblest peasants ; that unflagging enthusiasm which is so contagious; that personal righteousness amid the open corruptions of the Church; that tenderness for every creature, which led him to take the hunted hare in his bosom to hide it from the cruel fate which was sport to others; that natural heart of sorrow, which said over the grave of his beloved daughter: “I am joyful in spirit, but, oh, how sad in the flesh! it is a strange feeling this: to know that she is so certainly at rest, and yet to be so sad," — all these went to make up one of those remarkable lives which at once mould and fit into the circumstances of a great epoch in human history. In the early part of our Revolutionary period there was no desire to cast off the rule of the mother country, but only to be released from her arbitrary restrictions. In May, 1776, Washington wrote, “When I took command of the army, I abhorred the idea of independence; but I am fully satisfied now that